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North Carolina State Library 


The Story &£ 



St. John's College and 
Oxford Orphanage 

By Creasy K. Proctor 

[Address delivered before Mt. Hermon Lodge, 
Asheville, May 11, 1931, under the auspices of 
The North Carolina Lodge of Research, and 
published In Nocalore, Vol. I, Part 2, organ of 
the Lodge. Reprinted by special permission] 


The Story Of St. John's College And 
Oxford Orphanage 

By Creasy K. Proctor, Superintendent 

In undertaking this task I had no idea of its 
immensity. Of a more practical turn of mind, I 
found it difficult to to dig about in old records for 
original information and as I understand the pur- 
pose of a paper of this kind, it is in the hope that 
it may make a real contribution in its particular 
line. The greatest discovery that I have made 
lies not in the facts concerning these two institu- 
tions but in the contribution made by Masonry to 
the cause of education in North Carolina. I think 
some time I would like to develop that from the 
original sources as I am quite confident that the 
contribution of our fraternity to the cause of edu- 
cation is worthy of a place in writing in the his- 
tory of education in this state. 

There was a time in North Carolina when Ma- 
sonry, in its Grand Lodge gatherings, was expe- 
riencing many of the birth pains of leadership 
in North Carolina in their effort to work out a 
program of education for the youth of the state. 
There was a time when Masonry fostered more 
than one institution of learning that was above 
the average and that reports concerning these 
were made by the proper officers at the meetings 
of the Grand Bodies. An institution existed at 
Franklinton and at Germantown and others were 
scattered over the state of a similar nature, but 
the one that seems to be destined to the greatest a- 
mount of consideration and which represented the 
greatest outlay of money, of effort and of greater 
lasting quality was that of the St. John's College 
in Oxford, North Carolina. 

In the Grand Lodge of 1838 a resolution was 
passed looking to the establishment of a charity 
school under the care of the Grand Lodge. Con- 
sideration was asked concerning this establish- 
ment and in a report given on page two of the 
Grand Lodge Proceedings of 1839 a committee 
composed of Robert G. Goodlow, J. S. Burgiss and 
F. H. Reeder asked for a "postponement of the 
consideration of the resolution concerning a char- 
ity school to the next annual communication of 
the Grand Lodge." In 1840 a committee again 
asked for a postponement. In a circular on the 
subject of education is shown that the matter had 
taken on definite form. This circular was pre^ 
pared by W. F. Collins and dated on the 28th. of 
December 1847. This Grand Master was perform- 
ing a duty assigned to him by the Grand Lodge 
to impress "upon their notice the subject of a 
seminary of learning to be established under the 
immediate control and direction of the Grand 
Lodge of Masons of North Carolina." He further 
writes, "It is known to every member of the fra- 
ternity that this subiect has occupied the atten- 
tion of the Grand Lodge at every communica- 
tion since 1838. I will, however, here remark, that 
very little has been done, except to resolve and 
report upon the subject; the time has now arrived 
for action — ACTION! Let us, then, not leave to 
be done by others that which is our duty to per- 

"Although the contemplated institution is to be 
established upon the plan of benevolence, it is not 
expected to debar the more fortunate and wealthy 
from participating in its advantages. In fact, we 
should invite this union. With this design effect- 
ed, we shall see the indigent and humble, as well 
as those more favored by fortune, sharing equal 
advantages, and nobly contending for honorable 
distinction. It will instruct the one, as well as 
convince the other, that wealth, however valuable 
when properly used, can confer no superiority in 
the contest for moral and intellectual excellence." 
The scope of this idea and the depth of its think- 
ing can scarcely be thought of in terms of that 
day, but will readily show big men capable of true 
pioneering. Note this sentiment in , the circular, 
"I am sure every virtuous and intelligent mind 
will agree that he who is blessed with cultivated 
intellect is made thereby a more worthy, useful 
and happy citizen. Men of every profession are 
made more capable, more worthy and more exalted 
by education." This was said in a day when there 
existed in the minds of some the thought that it 
was not best for every man to be educated. His 
appeal in this circular was masterful. He pointed 
to the fact that in Pennsylvania, New York, Mis- 
souri, Alabama and other states there were flour- 
ishing schools under the auspices of Masonry. He 
calls attention to the fact that Hiram Lodge in 
Raleigh had already responded by appropriating 
one thousand dollars and that more would be 
raised and that when the enterprise started the 
lodges of the state would fall in line. The first 
three lodges to appoint the Trustees and report 
funds raised were Wake Forest, Concord in Tar- 
boro, and St. John's in Wilmington. There ap- 
pears to have been the same difficulty in raising 
money then that there is now. It is to be noticed 
in the resolution passed at the Grand Lodge of 
1847 that in this seminary of learning there were 
to be educated "free from charge such poor and 
destitute orphans and children of living brother 
Masons who have not the means to confer this 
benefit upon their off-spring, upon a fair and 
equitable plan of admission to be determined by 
the Grand Lodge." It was further decided that 
when $15,000.00 had been raised that the school 
should be set and that the plans for raising the 
money could be found in the Proceedings of 1846. 

In the year 1850 the Grand Lodge proceeded to 
take definite action as to the location of such a 
school. The school was finally to be located at 
Oxford and a committee composed of J. G. By- 
num, J. A. Lillington and P. H. Winston was 
appointed to prepare and publish a paper which 
would set forth the system of education proposed 
and the course of study. This was to be com- 
mitted to the several subordinate lodges and the 
matter fully explained and their cooperation 
sought. This address has some very startling 
statements also. For instance, "It is not to be dis- 
guised that in most of the colleges of the Union 
the system of education has not kept pace with 
the improvements of the age. It is the intention 
of the Grand Lodge that their institution shall 
be able to furnish all young men with as full 
and complete a collegiate education as can be 
obtained at any similar institution in the Union. 
No gentleman's education can be regarded as com- 
plete, nor ought to be regarded as complete, with- 


[ I 

out a knowledge of the dead languages ; but it 
certainly is improper that two-thirds of a 
young man's life should be occupied in this one 
branch of education — to be forgotten in most in- 
stances very soon after he engages in the busy 
avocations of life — to the exclusion of those other 
more useful species of knowledge which will bet- 
ter prepare him to act well his part as a man." 
This in 1851! We may not be so modern in our 
present views after all. 

The committee urged in this address that some- 
thing of Astronomy, Natural Philosophy, Chemis- 
try, Geology, Electricity, and Galvanism as taught 
in some schools should be continued, but that a 
larger emphasis should be placed upon Architec- 
ture, the power of Steam and its application to 
machinery, various processes of Manufactures, 
Metallurgy, Natural History and Engineering. 
This we think, can in a great measure be done by 
devoting more attention to what is useful and less 
to what may be called ornamental — more to what 
will prepare a young man to succeed in the great 
business of life, and less to that which will enable 
him to shine in the walks of literature. The fol- 
lowing sentence closed the address: "Every Mason 
may rest assured, that the Institution about to be 
established at Oxford will be one at which his 
son will have every advantage to be obtained at 
colleges of the highest character in the United 
States; and where, free from sectarian influence, 
he shall have instilled into his mind those prin- 
ciples of Morality, Brotherly Love and Charity 
which constitute the chief corner-stone of our be- 
loved Temple." 

Property was offered for sale at Oxford and 
a committee composed of R. W. Herndon, R. T. 
Taylor, W. W. Young and J. T. Littlejohn was ap- 
pointed to acquire this property and secure from 
the General Assembly an act of incorporation for 
a "Masonic College." I am sorry that I have 
not been able to locate the charter and the list of 
original trustees who were to be 30 good men 
and Masons, and with one man from each lodge 
were to cooperate in working out the plans. At 
a time when there were only 65 lodges in the state 
an agent was appointed to solicit funds for the 
establishment of the college. St. John's College 
was decided as the name for the new institution 
and in 1853 E. H. Hicks deeded to the Trustees 
of St. John's College a tract of land of 109 acres 
near the corporate limits of the town of Ox- 
ford, at a price of $4,480.00. 

In 1855 the contract was awarded to John 
Berry, of Orange County, and J. N. Holt, of 
Warren County, for the building of said col- 
lege, the contract totaling in its cost $22,500.00. 
In the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of De- 
cember 1855 the Grand Master reports that on 
the 24th. of June of that year, the anniversary 
of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the corner- 
stone of St. John's College was laid with ap- 
propriate ceremonies by the Grand Lodge and 
that large assemblies numbering several thou- 
sand were addressed by Rev. Leonidas Smith of 
Warrenton. A copy of this address may be 
found at the library of the Grand Lodge. 

A striking statement in the address of Bro- 
ther Smith is recorded here. Referring to the 
St. John's College he said, "Let Masons then 
cherish this institution of itself. It will be a 

refutation of all the slander that has been heap- 
ed on the fraternity. It will show what we are 
and what we aim to accomplish. It will be a 
standing evidence of our character, of our abil- 
ity and of our benevolent intentions." 

It is of interest also to note that the Grand 
Chapter of North Carolina cooperated in rais- 
ing funds for St. John's College. 

It is interesting also to note the dimensions 
of this building, — ''The building is 122 feet by 40 
feet, the center is 63 feet, is four stories and a 
basement, contains 53 dormitories, a Chapel 40 
feet by 60 feet, four recitation rooms, two society 
rooms and other rooms for chemical and other pur- 
poses." The four rooms suited for the accommo- 
dations of professors were provided each with a 
fire-place. A spacious chapel was provided, with 
a gallery around it, capable of seating conven- 
iently 1200 persons. It was said in the report of 
the Board of Trustees in 1857 that the building, 
in architectual beauty, surpasses all specimens to 
be found within the border of the state. 

The first financial agent was R. C. Maynard. 
Later L. A. Paschall, of Granville County, and S. 
S. Bryant were elected agents. Mr. R. W. Lassi- 
ter signed the first report of the Board of Trus- 
tees as its President. 

The campaign for funds continued with opposi- 
tion on the part of a great many who felt that it 
was an impossible task. From the very beginning 
a rough road seemed to be that which the young 
college should travel. Agents for collection of 
funds were appointed and each, as he went out, 
was instructed to refute the arguments advanced 
against the institution. 

In 1857 it was reported that the building was 
completed at a cost of $23,000.00 and that $13,- 
000.00 remained unpaid. The college was opened 
July 13, 1858, with Prof. Ashbel G. Brown, a dis- 
tinguished educator in charge, and Mr. James 
Campbell, assistant. The college was for male 
students only. In two years another Principal and 
assistant undertook to carry on the work. The 
management of the institution was changed sev- 
eral times without result and the troubles of the 
college never came to an end. It was converted 
from one type of school to another, yet nothing 
brought success. A report of R. W. Lassiter, 
President of its Board of Trustees, to the Grand 
Lodge in 1860 indicated the college as doing splen- 
didly with Thomas C. Tuley as Principal, with 
Joseph Venable as assistant. It was suggested 
that St. John's College at this time be made a 
military school, and again, as the war broke out, 
this was renewed with an effort to offer it to 
the State for this purpose, but such was never 
done. Then came the clouds of war and with the 
suspension of a great many of the Southern 
schools, St. John's College went the way of the 
rest; suspended its operations as the war came on. 

The school was in debt with many creditors, one 
of whom was Mr. John Berry, one of the contrac- 
tors in the beginning. At the close of the war Mr. 
John H. Mills, who was conducting a female school 
in Oxford, made arrangements to move into the 
building and had contemplated purchasing the 
same. He abandoned this idea and was succeeded 
by Rev. J. H. Phillips, and he in turn by Rev. C. 
B. Riddick, whose last session ended in 1871. In 
1868 the property was sold under a mortgage 



held by Capt. John Berry and was bought by the 
Grand Lodge of Masons for the sum of $7,000. An 
effort was made at the close of the school in 1871 
to arrange for a re-opening or to lease the pro- 
perty. These failed and a caretaker moved into 
the building until further disposition could be 
made. Thus the story of St, John's College closed 
in a record of failure, but not until the Masons 
of the State had. placed themselves in the ranks 
of the pioneers of education in North Carolina 
and had set forth ideals of education which 
through the passing years, have not been wasted 
on the desert air, but have been embodied in the 
educational ideals and institutions which have 
been established throughout the years. 

I have dwelt at unusual length in the discus- 
sion of the struggle for the establishment of a Ma- 
sonic educational institution. I have gone to some 
length in referring to the aims and ideals pre- 
vailing and have spent but little time referring to 
dates and details. My purpose in this was to show, 
not so much when, or the details of how, but to 
give just what I have, namely, the philosophy back 
of the whole program. Strong and noble men la- 
bored with great effort to enable the continuation 
of our first institution. 

But every crisis brings not the end of ideals 
and hopes, but ofttimes the shifting of ground and 
the renewing of effort in the direction of other 
ideals and hopes more deep-rooted in their nature 
and grappling with problems which represent even 
a more acute need. What was the significance 
then of seeming failure of Masonry in an effort 
to conduct a purely educational enterprise? It 
seems that private individuals, religious denomi- 
nations and the State have had greater success in 
this field and Masonry, instead of being embit- 
tered, of growing sour in its effort to establish 
its own institution, has builded up in educational 
line since 1871 its wonderfully useful Masonic 
Loan Fund, which amounts to practically $100,000 • 
placed at the various educational institutions of 
all sorts in the state to be loaned to worthy stu- 
dents, and the germ of interest manifested in 
earlier days by the Grand Chapter has found an 
outlet in the York Rite Loan Fund for the educa- 
tion of worthy students graduating from the Ox- 
ford Orphanage who desire to attend college; 
while at least one individual has become interested 
and made available a similar fund. 

But let us return to the matter of St. John's 
College. At the meeting of the Grand Lodge in 
1872 the all-absorbing question was "What shall 
be done with St. John's College property?" A 
resolution was introduced that the property, con- 
siderably encumbered with debt, should be sold. 
Nobody could even be found to lease the property. 
It was an hour for some real man to step forward 
with a challenging solution. That man appeared 
in the person of Mr. John H. Mills, who offered a 
substitute resolution. Towering over the brethren 
with his 300 lbs. of weight, this gracious man pre- 
sented his substitute resolution which resolved "The 
St. John's College be made into an asylum for the 
protection, training and education of indigent 
orphan children." It was a great hour. Nothing 
of the kind had before been proposed in the State. 
An institution for this purpose had before gone 
out of business in a town in eastern North Caro- 
lina. The argument in the Grand Lodge was 


lengthy. Some wanted to sell and use the money 
to build a Masonic Temple. Others, looking over 
the state, learned of the sad and perilous condi- 
tion of many children left destitute and homeless 
and felt strong in the conviction that the Supreme 
Architect of the Universe would have St. John's 
College "formed into a home for* the homeless." 
A vote was taken, the result being a tie. Another 
great man — the incoming Grand Master, Mr. 
John Nichols, called upon to break the tie, voted 
in favor of the orphanag'e. He referred to this 
as long as he lived as the greatest act of his life. 
It is, therefore, very fitting that the portraits of 
these two men should adorn the walls of the Chap- 
el this day at the Oxford Orphanage. 

The next question after the establishment of 
the Oxford Orphan Asylum, was who should begin 
its work. Mr. John H. Mills was elected its first 
Superintendent. At that time he was editor of 
the Biblical Recorder, the leading publication of 
the Baptist denomination of the state, but he ac- 
cepted the great trust imposed upon him and with 
rugged way, but large in body, mind and soul, he 
was well equipped to begin the pioneer work for 
the homeless children in North Carolina. The Ox- 
ford Orphanage, therefore, became the first of its 
kind in the state and one of the first in the South. 
The sum of $500 was appropriated for the main- 
tenance of its work the first year and the Super- 
intendent was asked to bring the matter before the 
minds and hearts of the people of the State. 

In February, 1873, the first children were ad- 
mitted in the persons of Robert L. and Nancy Par- 
rish and Isabella Robertson, of Granville County, 
who arrived in an old battered wagon. Past 
Grand Master Francis D. Winston states that he 
witnessed the scene, so I will let him describe it 
in his language: "It was a Saturday afternoon. 
A dull cloud hung in the sky. A man with a one- 
horse wagon drove to the door. Mr. Mills, with a 
gruff voice, asked his mission. He told it. The 
gigantic form of our friend shook with emotion. 
He lifted the pale youth from the wagon with a 
paw of a lion. He raised him in the air, and with 
melting pity and tears let him drop upon his heart 
and kissed him. It was indeed the caress of a lion, 
but it was truly the caress of love." Thus, there 
was commenced by the Masonic fraternity that 
movement in the life of North Carolina which has 
resulted in this one institution having cared for, 
for a brief or for a longer time, approximately 
4,500 homeless children. And more than this, 
with this beginning under the leadership of Mr. 
Mills, he, himself, later going into a similar task 
for another group, has brought sheltering care 
and tender training to thousands of others until 
tonight in the orphanages of the state there are 
approximately 5,000 children. In addition to this 
child-caring institutions for the feeble-minded, for 
the blind, the deaf and dumb, the crippled, and 
training for children who have strayed from the 
path of rectitude, have grown up over the ritate, 
fostered by private agencies, fraternal societies 
religious denominations, states and counties and 
commonwealth of the state. 

The struggles of this new institution were 
many and the discouragements to the faithful 
toilers of that day were not few. 84 children came 
the first year. Supplies came in slowly. The 
people of Granville County and of the state respon- 


ded well to the requests for help and the story of 
Mr. John H. Mills, with his old wagon and his for- 
aging trips are still remembered by many, and 
later a little group of children, singing and tak- 
ing collection, was the source of considerable help 
and formed a basis for the present singing class 
of the institution. It is reported that 109 children 
were in the orphanage at the end of the first year. 
It is interesting to note that in those early days 
the state assemblies of the great religious denomi- 
nations passed resolutions approving the work of 
the Oxford Orphan Asylum and urged their pas- 
tors to take collections in all their churches and 
forward the same to the Superintendent. . 

The appropriation from the Grand Lodge was 
increased to $1,000 the second year and additional 
workers were added to the staff and a more ade- 
quate course of study provided for the education 
of the children. In 1876 a committee composed 
of W. E. Anderson, J. A. Leach and F. H. Busbee 
appeared before the Legislature asking for assis- 
tance from the state for the orphanage. It was 
not secured at that time. 

The year 1877 was hard for the orphanage. 
There was dissension over the matter of asking 
the State for support and there was a difference 
of opinion as to the assessment of newly-made Ma- 
sons for the support of the Orphan Asylum. The 
Grand Lodge, in 1877, appointed a committee to 
inspect the institution and ascertain whether or 
not it was the thing to do to continue the work. 
At the same time a committee composed of Thos. 
S. Kenan, Zebulon B. Vance, Edwin G. Reade, 
J. M. Worth, Eugene Grissom, W. E. Anderson, 
J. A. Leach and P. H. Busbee, was appointed to 
again appear before the Legislature and call 
special attention to that Body that the obligation 
imposed upon the state of North Carolina by the 
Constitution was to care for destitute orphan 
children within its bounds. The Grand Lodge was 
then appropriating $2,000 a year and the bene- 
fits of the orphanage were not then, nor have they 
been since, restricted to the children of Masons 
and there has always been a larger majority of 
the children whose fathers were not Masons. In 
1878 a committee composed of W. R. Cox, John 
Nichols, Z. M. Paschall, J. B. Neathery and R. T. 
Gray visited the Asylum and recommended to the 
Grand Lodge of that year that its work be con- 
tinued. Special mention was made of the genero- 
sity of the people of Granville County to the in- 
stitution. The report of the committee was en- 
thusiastically adopted. Orphan Asylum commit- 
tees in all lodges were appointed to create interest 
in the orphanage, collect funds and send to the 
Superintendent, and this committee be given, at 
every lodge meeting, a chance to present its claims. 
Grand Master W. R. Cox was requested to appeal 
to Gov. Zebulon B. Vance renewing the request for 
state aid and the Governor was asked to recommend 
this in his message to the General Assembly. W. 
S. Harris, Senator from Franklin, introduced the 
resolution and the amount of $3,000 per year was 
appropriated. In 1881 the amount was increased 
to $5,000. In 1885 it was increased to $10,000, and 
today it is $30,000. 

In 1879 there was need of additional buildings 
and a part of the land of the Asylum was sold and 
a boys' building, located on the hill several hun- 
dred yards from St. John's College, was erected 


and completed in 1882. A small endowment which 
the institution had, with the 2,500 from the sale 
of land, was applied to the erection of this build- 
ing. During the years of 1879-80 there was con- 
siderable awakening of interest in North Caro- 
lina in orphanage work. The state had made its 
appropriations. The religious denominations pas- 
sed resolutions commending the work at Oxford 
and urged that collections be taken. Masonry had 
at last started a movement that seemed to be grow- 
ing in favor. Until 1884 the Superintendent of the 
Orphanage reported direct to the Grand Lodge 
and was annually re-elected by this Body. The 
work of the orphanage was vested largely in the 
superintendent. A catalogue of the Orphan Asy- 
lum at Oxford, of the date of 1882, is in our pos- 
session and shows the following list of workers: 
J. H. Mills, Superintendent; J. S. Midyette, Assis- 
tant Superintendent and Teacher of Third Form, 
Boys; Mrs. E. E. Midyette, Teacher of Second 
Form, Boys; Miss A. E. Shelton, Teacher of First 
Form, Boys; Miss Mary S. Long, Teacher of Third 
Form, Girls; Miss A. M. Clewell, Teacher of Se- 
cond Form, Girls; Miss M. A. Harrison, Teacher 
of First Form, Girls; Miss M. F. Jordan, in 
charge of Books, Correspondence and Vocal, Mu- 
sic; Mrs. E. H. Jones, Manager of Sewing Room; 
Miss S. P. Van Duyn, Housekeeper. 

It is of value here to spend a little time in ac- 
quainting ourselves with the real philosophy of 
Brother Mills in shaping the policy of the Orphan- 
age work. A part of the original resolution read 
as follows: "The orphan children in the said asy- 
lum shall be fed and clothed, and shall receive 
such preparatory training and education as will 
prepare them for useful occupations and for the 
usual business transactions of life." "The design 
of the Orphan Asylum shall be to protect, train 
and educate indigent and promising orphan child- 
ren, to be received between the ages of eight and 
twelve, who have no parents, nor property, nor 
near relatives able to assist them. They shall not 
be received for a shorter time than two years. 
In extraordinary cases the Superintendent may 
receive children outside the ages specified." Child- 
ren who had been deserted were not to be admitted 
nor were children who had step-fathers. It was 
also deemed advisable not to admit children with 
deformities. It was considered beyond the reach 
of the orphanage to employ mechanics to teach 
trades. However, this was changed in a short 
while and plans were set up to give vocational 
training. It is interesting to note that the ad- 
monition was given that the institution be conduc- 
ed on the cash system and that the larger girls 
assist in the ordinary house work, and in the mak- 
ing and mending of clothes, and that the larger 
boys assist in the preparation of fuel, care of 
stock and the cultivation of the soil. . It is interest- 
ing to note that although $500 was given for the 
first year's work by the Grand Lodge, that at the 
end of the year Brother Mills reported that $5,- 
704.00 had been spent and that he had $160.00 on 

The following appeared in the catalogue for the 
Orphan Asylum of 1882 — a document which had 
rather wide circulation: The Orphan Asylum is 
doing good in four ways: 

1. It stimulates education by directing the at- 
tention of parents to the value of learning. 


2. It takes helpless orphans away from the 
vices to which they are exposed, away from the ig- 
norance in which they are groping, away from the 
extreme destitution which many of them suffer, 
and away from the sad and shameful slavery 
which many of them so patiently endure. It gives 
them a pleasant home, sufficient food and com- 
fortable clothing. Efficient, scholastic instruc- 
tion and sound moral lessons are day by day im- 
proving their minds and hearts, and guiding their 
inexperienced feet in ways of wisdom and virtue. 

3. It checks popular avarice and restrains the 
love of money, the ruling passion of the people. 
It opens and widens the channels of benevolence 
and gladdens the hearts of those who have felt 
themselves friendless and forsaken. 

4. It teaches the world that Masonry means 
love, relief, and truth; the Masonic signs are eyes 
of pity for the poor, ears open to the cry for help, 
mouths ready to condemn the wrong, defend the 
right and comfort the afflicted; hands helping 
the needy, and feet going on errands of love and 
mercy. Genuine Masonry compels its votaries to 
go about doing good, and the Orphan Asylum is 
a perpetual appeal to the charity of every human 
heart, a never-ceasing sermon on the beauty of 
benevolence, and a blessed benediction on the head 
of every cheerful giver." 

As a justification for the work of the orphan- 
age at the end of the first ten years; the following 
statement was made by its Superintendent: "A 
large majority of the discharged Orphans are now 
prosperous as citizens, and useful to the State." 

The foundations for the orphanage work at 
Oxford were further laid by Mr. Mills in the erec- 
tion of some new buildings, in the increased ap- 
propriations, in a continuing stream of children 
pouring into the institution, and into tfhe work- 
ing out of the first set of rules or regulations and 
plans for the care of orphan children in the state. 
Children were placed from the orphanage out in- 
to homes and many of them were adopted. This 
statement occurs in an old catalogue: "We are 
always glad to accommodate childless couples who 
wish to adopt children as their own; but greatly 
prefer that they should come and make their own 
selections. Thus we see the beginnings of the 
whole program of child-placing, which had gained 
large proportions in our state and country. 

The following questionnaire was sent to those 
desiring to take children into their homes: 

1. Describe precisely such an orphan as you 

2. State clearly and fully what you will expect 
said orphan to do. 

3. Say what you are willing to do for the orphan. 

4. Do not use any indefinite expressions. Do 
not inquire if we "have any children to put out," 
and do not ask if we "want homes for them." 

5. Do not propose to treat an orphan "as a 
member of the family." A dog is a member of the 
family, because it is often said that every properly 
organized family consists of a father, a mother, 
a son, a daughter and a dog. 

6. Those who take orphans pay their traveling 
expenses. Money should also be sent to pay for the 
usual meals. 

7. Unknown parties should be endorsed by the 
officers of Masonic Lodges, or other reliable per- 


The Orphans' Friend was commenced also dur- 
ing these first 10 years, to be published each week 
at a price exactly the same as it is today. 

The following schedule of studies was observed 
in the orphanage school: 

First Form 
Primers and Elementary Spelling Books. 
First and Second Readers. 
Making Letters and Figures. 
Vocal Music and Calisthenics. 

Second Form 
Third and Fourth Readers. 
Swinton's Word Book. 

Sanford's Primary and Intermediate Arithme- 

Mitchell's Primary Geography. 

Greene's Elementary Grammar. 

Moore's History of North Carolina. 


Vocal Music and Calisthenics. 

Third Form 
Fifth Readers. 
Patterson's Speller. 

Sanford's, Felter's and Olney's Arithmetics. 
Mitchell's Intermediate Geography. 
Clark's and Reed and Kellogg's Grammar. 
History of United States. 
History of England. 
History of Greece. 
History of Rome. 
Hart's Composition. 
Vocal Music and Calisthenics. 

I think all of this is sufficient to show us that 
from the very beginning the work of the orphan- 
age was pitched on a high plane and with an aim 
and ideal that was probably in advance of the day, 
and the foundations for the pioneer work were 
safe and secure. 

The story of the orphanage from that day until 
now is a story of progress and of growth in the 
number of children to be taken care of, in the a- 
mount of equipment involved, and in the interest 
of the state at large in the work of the institution. 
Changing ideals of child training and education 
have gradually found their way into the institu- 
tion. I shall hurry through the few changes in 
the life of the Oxford Orphan Asylum. 

In January, 1884, Grand Master Bingham and 
the Orphan Asylum Committee of the Grand 
Lodge of that date appointed a Board of Direc- 
tors for the Orphanage and re-elected Brother 
Mills. The Superintendent was also instructed to 
install a set of Books. With these new features 
set up by the Grand Lodge, Brother Mills, feeling 
that he could not continue, declined to accept the 
Superintendency, but agreed to serve until his suc- 
cessor was appointed. The directors elected were: 
H. F. Granger, Goldsboro: Thos. Kenan, Raleigh; 
Julian S. Carr, Durham; A. H. A. Williams, Ox- 
ford; and H. H. Munson, Wilmington. Brother 
H. F. Granger withdrew and H. T. Bahnson, of 
Salem, took his place. Dr. B. F. Dixon was chosen 
Superintendent, and thus Brother Mills went 
from the Oxford Orphan Asylum, not to forget the 
call of childhood, but to go forth and present their 
appeal to the Baptists of the State, which resulted 


in the establishment of what is now the Mills 
Home at Thomasville. 

The work of Dr. Dixon, commencing in 1884, 
was of a constructive type and his Board of Di- 
rectors, with the Grand Master, as ex-officio Chair- 
man of all Boards from the beginning, consisted of 
Fab Busbee, Grand Master and President of the 
Board, A. H. A. Williams, Secretary, Thomas S. 
Kenan, C. T. Bailey, J. S. Carr, T. A. Green. 

Dr. Dixon, in his report of 1885, builds upon 
the foundation formed by Mr. Mills. This state- 
ment occurs: "At least four religious denomina- 
tions shall be represented among the officers of 
the Asylum and the representatives of all religious 
creeds and all political parties shall be treated a- 

The By-Laws of that year outlined the duties 
of the Board of Directors and the Superintend- 
ent, stating that "the Superintendent shall be 
a married man, have board and lodging for 
himself in the Asylum free of charge and re- 
ceive a salary of $1200.00 a year. He shall keep 
two books — a book of receipts and a book of dis- 
bursements. He shall make regular reports to 
the Directors at their meetings and be executive 
head of the Asylum." 

The number of children in the Asylum in 1885 
was 175. Other names appearing on the Board of 
Directors besides the Grand Master's, through the 
years, were C. T. Bailey, J. M. Currin, G. Rosen- 
thal, N. B. Broughton, J. W. Cotten and B. S. 
Royster. In 1893 the State of North Carolina ap- 
pointed three members to the Board of Directors, 
- — B. N. Duke of Durham, J. M. Ramsey, of Sea- 
board, and Fielding Knott, of Oxford. Succeed- 
ing Mr. Knott, three years later, was Mr. C. W. 
Toms, of Durham, and succeeding Mr. Ramsey was 
E. F. Lovill, of Watauga County, and upon the 
resignation of Mr. B. N. Duke, Dr. Dred Peacock 
was selected. 

A local Advisory Board of three Granville 
County Masons was created in 1889. The first 
members were John W. Hays, N. A. Gregory, and 
J. M. Currin. This Board is today composed of 
B. W. Parham, A. H. Powell, and J. M. Baird. 

Dr. Di x ° n > during his administration, was able 
to enlarge the orphanage by the erection of what 
is now the Walker Building, the gift of Mrs. Leti- 
tia Morehead Walker, in memory of her son, 
John Morehead Walker. This building was used 
as a residence by the Superintendent until 1904 
when it was converted into a hospital. Several 
acres of land were bought in 1884 from R. O. Gre- 
gory and L. C. Taylor. During these days the in- 
dustrial departments of the Orphanage were great- 
ly increased as Dr. Dixon was quite enthusiastic 
along this line. In 1886 and 1887 the Shoe Shop, 
Printing Office, etc., were added and buildings ar- 
ranged for these purposes. Tribute is paid, not 
only to Dr. Dixon, but his wife, who, with him, 
worked out the policies of the orphanage and con- 
tributed much to its progressive policy during 
those days. The number of children, during his 
administration, went as high as 264. Brother 
Dixon resigned in 1890 and Rev. J. T. Harris, of 
Durham, was elected in his place. 

Hardly had Brother Harris entered on his 
work, when in November of that same year, he 
died. Dr. Dixon managed the affairs of the in- 
stitution until a successor could be appointed. 


In January, 1891, Dr. W. S. Black, of Raleigh, 
was made Superintendent. During his adminis- 
tration the orphanage also underwent many chan- 
ges and, likewise, Mrs. Black, known as "Aunt 
Mary", was a fine spirit within the life of the 
home. The age of reception and discharge of chil- 
dren was changed, making the dates six to eighteen. 
At this time Mr. A. H. A. Williams, of Oxford, was 
Treasurer and was succeeded by Mr. G. Rosen- 
thal, in 1892. During Dr. Black's administration 
the industrial features of the orphanage were car- 
ried forward and enlarged. In 1894, a few months 
after the death of his wife, Dr. Black gave up the 
work, returning to the ministry of the Methodist 

He was succeeded by Mr. N. M. Lawrence, of 
Tarboro, and early in his administration the in- 
stitution was incorporated as "The Oxford, North 
Carolina, Orphan Asylum". The work by this 
time was well established and orphanage activi- 
ties in the state had grown to where the Baptists, 
Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists had 
institutions doing a similar work. One of the out- 
standing pieces of work done by Mr. Lawrence 
was the change from the old congregate system 
of the orphanage to the separate building or cot- 
tage system. It is seen readily that during these 
days the orphanage was willing to be actually mak- 
ing adjustments in its plans of work in keeping 
with the advancing ideas of the day in regard to 
child-care. At this time Brother Lawrence and 
others were able to interest Mr. B. N. Duke in the 
affairs of the orphanage to a greater extent than 
■ever and he offered to contribute half of the funds 
required for such buildings as were needed and 
planned by Mr. Lawrence. As a result, four cot- 
tages for boys and a central dining room build- 
ing was started, and a little latter four cottages for 
girls were completed, — the first in 1897, the last 
in 1899. Thus the gift of Mr. Duke, coming at 
the time when it did, guaranteed, for the Oxford 
Orphanage increased possibility and evidenced its 
effectiveness and permanency. This act on his part 
showed that men of large means had become in- 
terested and, as the other institutions of similar 
kind over the state were wondering as to their 
future, the stability accorded the Oxford Orphan- 
age gave impetus and encouragement to similar 
institutions as well as our own. Other gifts, 
through the years, have been made and the list 
of those contributing either as memorials, through 
their wills, or in donations, is long and appreciated. 

Mr. Lawrence retired from the management 
of the orphanage July, 1898, and was succeeded 
by Col. W. J. Hicks, of Raleigh. During his ad- 
ministration the work of the orphanage school was 
greatly emphasized and improved. The business 
organization of the orphanage was reorganized and 
improved. The buildings commenced under Mr. 
Lawrence were finished and occupied. Buildings 
for laundry, sewing, printing office and shoe shop 
and wood working departments were completed. 
An office or administration building was erected. 
Deep wells were bored. These, along with many 
smaller improvements, greatly added to the effi- 
ciency and possibilities of the orphanage for a 
higher grade of work. Each Superintendent, 
during his administration, was able to lead the 
orphanage into making necessary improvements 
and reorganize wherever necessary for more ef- 


fective child care. The institution, during that 
time, was able to take care of 325 children. 

It is an inspiring page to read the reports 
through those days and learn how the orphanage 
rose to meet the situation. Col. Hicks offered his 
resignation to take effect September 1, 1909, but 
with the election of Mr. R. L. Brown, of Oxford, 
as Assistant Superintendent, Col. Hicks remain- 

On January 14, 1911, Col. Hicks, who for nearly 
13 years was head of the institution, passed to his 
reward and Mr. R. L. Brown was selected to take 
his place. The capacity of the institution at that 
time was 325. The Board of Directors, in its re- 
port of 1911, pays this splendid tribute to Col. 
Hicks, "It is due to his sound judgment and wise 
counsel that the institution has attained its pre- 
sent high state of efficiency." 

During the administration of Mr. Brown the 
progress and development of the institution con- 
tinued. Cottages were remodeled; a beautiful 
fire-proof school building, second to none, was 
erected and named in honor of' Past Grand Mas- 
ter Jno. Nichols; a new hospital, fire-proof and 
commodious and well equipped, was erected and 
named in honor of Col. Hicks. The work of the 
orphanage school was reorganized and set apart 
as the distinctive enterprise, with a Principal giv- 
ing his full time to the directing of the school. 

Many changes have occurred during these years 
in the members of the Board of Directors, but al- 
ways men of large vision have been selected and 
have dedicated themselves to the sacred task in- 
trusted to them. Mention should be made espe- 
cially of Gen. B. S. Royster, of Oxford, who for 
many years was a tower of strength and help in 
the affairs of the institution and too much can- 
not be said of his valuable service rendered most 
graciously to the institution. There are other 
names among the Grand Lodge officers, other 
names among faithful workers at the orphanage, 
that might well be mentioned, each having contri- 
buted his or her part, for although the orphanage 
has received much in material assistance, it takes 
men and women to translate these ideals into ac- 
tual life. 

It was during this administration that the 
York Rite Loan Fund, to aid worthy orphanage 
students desiring to enter college, was established, 
and that the A. B. Andrews Loan Fund, for prac- 
tically the same purpose, was established, and also 
the York Rite Library Fund, to furnish books and 
magazines for the children. The Shrine Swim- 
ming Pool, a gift of Sudan and Oasis Temples, 
was also built during this time, and the orphanage 
became the beneficiary of legacies from Mr. B. 
N. Duke and family, Angier B. Duke and endow- 
ments from other sources, principally the John 
W. Neal Trust Fund. This former orphanage 
boy remembered his childhood home, as well as a 
similar institution at Winston-Salem, and the in- 
come from this magnificent endowment is a bul- 
wark of financial strength in the carrying on of 
the orphanage. During this time a home for the 
Treasurer and Superintendent were erected, and 
in fact, in material equipment the orphanage, dur- 
ing the administration of Mr. Brown, made re- 
markable progress. 

Improvements were also made in methods of 
dealing with children and progress made in the 


direction of the adoption of more modern methods 
for child-care. These, however, come slowly, and 
results can not be as quickly attained as in the 
field of material development. 

In the midst of his work, Superintendent R. L. 
Brown died one March morning as he walked a- 
cross the beautiful campus and under the trees of 
the institution into which he had put the best of 
his life. The institution found itself again facing 
the task of selecting a successor, and realizing the 
changing ideal and methods in the field of edu- 
cation and child-care, and realizing the importance 
of maintaining proper contacts with the state and 
the members of the Fraternity, and realizing that 
the institution had grown to large proportions the 
Directors were slow in their selection of a succes- 
sor. Gen. B. S. Royster directed the afffairs of 
the orphanage until a new Superintendent should 
arrive. Grand Master R. C. Dunn announced in 
May that Rev. C. K. Proctor, of Rocky Mount, had 
been elected Superintendent of the Oxford Orphan- 
age and would assume his duties on August 1, 
1928. Since that time I have given the best I 
have to this inspiring task. The record from 
August 1, 1928, therefore, must be written by an- 

It may seem that in the review of the history 
of the orphanage that I have given the Superin- 
tendents a major part of the credit for the growth 
and development of the orphanage. How much 
is due to them no one can ever know and it is cer- 
tain that no one would attempt to deny them the 
credit which they deserve, but it needs to be 
brought out that the progress of the institution 
has been led by outstanding men and Masons of 
the state who were Grand Masters in their day 
and who, after serving their Fraternity as Grand 
Masters, have still counted it a pleasure to pro- 
mote the interests of their beloved orphanage. In 
the forefront with these there have been other 
Masons, — members of various Boards and Com- 
mittees who have taken the leadership in cam- 
paigns to raise money or in efforts to protect the 
orphanage from all inroads, and to spur the Su- 
perintendent to greater activity, and to lead the 
State and the Craft in making suitable provision 
for the orphanage. Campaigns for the school 
building, the hospital, and for the buildings re- 
cently erected, led by men like Gen. Royster, of 
Oxford; R. C. Dunn, of Enfield; Leon Cash, of 
Winston-Salem, and others whose names emblazen 
the tablets of history, should all come in for their 
part of the credit. To these, and to the far-sight- 
ed leadership of many others, and to the faithful 
leadership of each man in the ranks, too much hon- 
or can not be given. 

Let us return to another phase of the work of 
the orphanage. The task of the orphanage is not 
simply to feed and clothe and keep the children 
from degradation, but to prepare them to take hon- 
orable places in the social order to which they shall 
some day go. The program of life, therefore, at 
the orphanage is gradually changing. The Ox- 
ford Orphanage, as the institution is now called, 
stands among the leaders in the country; its staff 
of workers numbers approximately 65 and it is 
really a city within itself. It has kept pace with 
many modern improvements. However there is 
much yet to be done. There are buildings that 
need to be remodeled, material equipment of a 


new type necessary in many places, and there is 
need for a larger endowment and for a larger in- 
terest in the further education of the boys and 
girls; there is need for the consideration carefully 
of the plans of service for the future, both in in- 
ternal reorganization in policy, as well as the 
general policy to be workeoT out by Boards of Di- 
rectors and the Grand Lodge. The orphanage 
property today in permanent equipment, endow- 
ments, special funds and all of its assets, is ap- 
proximately $1,300,000, with an annual budget of 
approximately $175,000, when expenditures for 
all purposes are considered. 

At present there are 393 children here and the 
capacity will not soon be increased. The Board 
of Directors is composed of : J. W. Winborne, Grand 
Master, Marion; H. C. Alexander, Deputy Grand 
Master, Charlotte; Peter T. Wilson, Senior Grand 
Warden, Winston-Salem; Roy F. Ebbs, Junior 
Grand Warden, Asheville; A. B. Andrews, Raleigh; 
R. L. Flowers, Durham ; T. A. Green, New Bern ; 
R. C. Dunn, Enfield; S. M. Gattis, Hillsboro; Lu- 
ther T. Hartsell, Jr., Concord ; J. LeGrand Everett, 
Rockingham; Thomas J. Harkins, Asheville. 
Three of these are appointed by the Governor of 
North Carolina. The Grand Master of the Grand 
Lodge is ex-officio member of the Board and is 
Chairman. The Deputy Grand Master, the Senior 
Grand Warden and the Junior Grand Warden are 
members of the Board ex-officio. Appropriations 
come to us from the state amounting to $30,000 
per year, and the Grand Lodge $50,000 per year. 
The difference between this and the budget is made 
up from the income from endowments and invest- 
ments and especially the voluntary gifts of Masons 
and friends. 

The Oxford Orphanage has struggled upward 
through the years and although it is not grown, — 
and we hope will never be, — we feel that it is se- 
cure and permanent in the life of the Fraternity 
and the State. It is the pride of Masons of North 
Carolina and it will be the pride of all the people of 
the State. It is the recipient of love and admira- 
tion and of the gifts of a material sort from 
people throughout the commonwealth and of the 
approximately 4,500 who have come within its 
sheltering care. Many have, of course, passed 
into the Great Beyond; many are scattered o'er all 
the earth, and engaged in all pursuits. The Or- 
phanage has failed in many respects, to be sure, 
but the mistakes are not of the heart. Some of 
her children have not turned out well, but most 
of them have. The orphanage gathered to her 
bosom and to her great loving heart these hun- 
dreds, has done the best she could, has saved for 
the State and Society, the Lord only knows how 
much in dollars and cents; has saved from sin and 
crime more than the world will ever know, and 
from this campus throughout the world a stream 
of life, carrying joy, happiness, culture, the will 
to work and to serve, has gone forth through the 

The question has been asked, "What has Ma- 
sonry done for the Oxford Orphanage, or what 
has North Carolina done for the Oxford Orphan- 
age?" I close with this question, "What has the 
Oxford Orphanage done to, and for, Masonry; to, 
and for, the State of North Carolina?" May we 
pledge ourselves anew to the carrying forward of 
the work.